Kingsport Times-News: Rogersville lifting fireworks sale ban on day of July 4th Celebration
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Rogersville lifting fireworks sale ban on day of July 4th Celebration

Jeff Bobo • May 16, 2019 at 9:55 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A longstanding ban on fireworks sales inside the city on the day of Rogersville’s Fourth of July Celebration would be lifted under a new ordinance approved on first reading Tuesday.

Rogersville’s only current ordinance regulating fireworks prohibits sales on the Fourth of July.

That ordinance was approved in the 2000s to help prevent fireworks from being discharged in the Rogersville City Park during the annual Fourth of July Celebration.

On Tuesday, City Attorney Bill Phillips presented the BMA with a proposed ordinance that allows fireworks sales through July 5, removing the prohibition of sales on the day of the Fourth of July Celebration.

That celebration is usually held on July 4th except when that date falls on a Sunday, when it has historically taken place the previous Saturday.

Dr. Blaine Jones chaired the celebration committee when that original ordinance was approved in the 2000s.

He recalled that at the time the Celebration was attracting more than 30,000 people to the City Park.

The fireworks sales ban was approved due to safety and liability concerns about easy access to fireworks across Park Boulevard from the City Park at a fireworks tent that usually sets up in the Big Lots parking lot.

Jones asked the BMA Tuesday to consider including a stipulation in the new ordinance prohibiting fireworks sales within a certain distance of the City Park during the celebration.

Alderman Mark DeWitte, who served on the Fourth of July Celebration Committee with Jones, was among those who pushed for the fireworks sales ban on the day of the Celebration in the 2000s as well.

“We realize that it was a crimp in the plans of people who want to sell fireworks, and I’m not sure who wants to re-authorize it for that day,” DeWitte said. “But we had a huge safety concern. We went back and forth about just banning it here or banning it in the whole city, but we had at least one event where we had some really serious fireworks issues inside the viewing area for the Fourth of July festivities.”

DeWitte added, “If we’re going to do something like this, I would ban it within a certain distance of the park on that day. To me, it’s just a huge danger and a huge liability risk. If somebody gets hurt, we’re going to be wishing we had banned it.”

There were two fireworks sales advocates in the audience for Tuesday’s BMA meeting including Robin Horner, who owns the tent that fireworks vendors use at the Big Lots parking lot near the City Park, as well as at the Rogersville Walmart parking lot.

“The July 4th day is about 50 percent of our sales, so when we don’t have that day, it really stretches us to be profitable,” Horner said. “Especially if we have a day or two that has rain in it. It’s a real stretch for us to make a profit if we don’t have that day selling.”

The new ordinance was approved on first reading Tuesday by a vote of 6-0. The second and third readings will likely be considered at the June meeting so that it takes effect before July 4 if it is approved.

Aside from allowing fireworks sales in the city on the day of the celebration, the new ordinance establishes the times that fireworks can be sold — June 20 through July 5; can be shot by the public — from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and increases the fireworks vendor fee from $50 to $300.

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